Friday, August 29, 2014

Catchin' up...

It's been more than a month since my last post, so here are some short takes on what's been happening (and, perhaps, reasons for the delay) -- everything from the (promised) news about the "Bate's Motel" to boda-boda drivers, celebrations and, the best news, a good beer. (And forgive wordiness, etc. -- I am doing this quickly to get it done.)

Bate's Motel: "He has a gun," I said, calmly, in an effort to soothe fears.

Context is everything, and for our guest on our trip upcountry it was anything but.

"I can't sleep alone," was the immediate retort.

I had said what I said to allay any fears about the really reasonably-priced hotel we were forced into because of our later-than-expected arrival to the motel, found after a long search (in both time and distance), following our visit to Murchison Falls National Park. Along the way, we had picked up a park guide, a genial fellow named Jim, who then tagged along with us to the hotel (looking for a free night's stay).

He was the one with the gun. (Well, he is an Ugandan wildlife officer, and a lot of people here carry guns.)

Despite my assurances that having someone in uniform with a gun outside your motel room was a comforting sight, it was no consolation to our guest, who had images of the Bate's Motel and, instead of a knife in the shower, it would be a wildlife official who had "hitchhiked" onto our party who would sneak in and "pow, pow" -- that's all folks!

We all awoke the next morning, safe and sound -- with Jim and his gun still in tow.

Mzee 1, boda-boda driver 0: Score one for the old guy, me, the "mzee," a term of reverence reserved for old guys in East Africa.

Joyce and I were stuck in traffic in downtown Kampala when the driver of a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) swept by in front of us and clipped our front bumper, tearing it (the cover) pretty much completely off.

He didn't stop (not unusual), but it pissed me off. Even my "I hate anything violent" wife (to the point she won't watch violent movies) yelled: "Get him" as I took off in our Rav4, weaving through traffic, including the wrong way (right side) of the packed street. After about 100 meters, the fleeing boda-boda got blocked by a jam, so I screeched to a halt about 20 meters short, jumped out, ran up to the driver, a tall man in his early 30s, grabbed him by his jacket and yanked him off. (His passenger jumped off and fled the scene.)

All this attracted a crowd, which thankfully was on my side. I yelled, "I want the police," and several of the bystanders pointed to a police shack a short way up the street.

With a firm hold on his jacket, I dragged the offender to the police, with a couple of folks in the crowd rolling his boda-boda behind us.

I kept telling the guy: "You should have stopped, and I wouldn't have been mad" (something I kept telling him during the entire adventure).

Of course, he didn't stop because he likely didn't have insurance and no ability to pay.

While we chatted with the police, a young man came up with a few tools and some screws. He began putting the bumper cover (which had come completely off during my chase) back into its proper place.

About an hour later, the job was done, as was the gathering of information, during which the traffic cop asked me a bunch of questions, including my age.

"71," I replied.

"Uh, how old?" he asked.


He gave me a quizzical, startled and surprised look.

"Well, he just pissed me off," I said.

He seemed then to accept that, though his look did not change.

I gave the guy who repaired our bumper 20,000 shillings (about $7.50), scolded the boda-boda driver once more and, after about an hour from initial impact until bumper repaired, went merrily on our way.

The next morning, when I told Alex Asiimwe, the managing director of our operation, about it, he said: "Don't do that!"

I was lucky the crowd was on my side, he said.

"But," I replied, "he pissed me off."

He had the same look as the cop.

Weddings: We went to our first Ugandan wedding (Muslim) last Saturday, and we're going to another (Christian) today.

Today's, I'm sure, will be wonderful (for one of my favorite folks at the Monitor, a young, talented reporter with young, talented copy editor -- called sub-editor here).

Last Saturday was a five-hour affair, but worth every minute. A beautiful bride, two beautiful children and a great groom. Oh, and great food and great conversation with new friendships made.

The bride was Aidah Nalubega, officially my administrative assistant, but in reality my "boss." She is smart, beautiful and dedicated -- and, perhaps, the most important person to any successes I might enjoy here. She is helpful at every turn (and, if I have my way, she'll be playing even more important newsroom roles soon).

Our visitors in June (Sarah and Chris and Lauren) know Aidah, so they can confirm.

I tell folks that I always cry at weddings, and this was no exception. I did when she first came out in her beautiful gown (not white, but in beautiful African colors), just one of three beautiful gowns she wore during the ceremony. And, again, when I was asked to speak to the large crowd about what Aidah meant to me (and to Joyce).

Joyce and I, who were seated up front with family, were honored and privileged to have been invited.

She and her husband, "W," have been together for 12 years and have two beautiful children. We wish them many, many more years of happiness.

That day will be with us forever.

Now, in a bit, Joyce and I have to get ready for today's wedding, and tomorrow we've been invited to a birthday party for one of our young newsroom editors.

Moments like these make this often-trying adventure all worthwhile.

Beer: I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- the beer in Uganda is boring. Just Pilsners, lagers and stout. Nothing with distinct flavor or bite. Just "Budweiser" to me (and you all know that I NEVER drink "Bud").

Well, the beer gods must have taken notice: A micro-brewery has opened! And just down the hill from us! (Yippee!!!)

As of now, only two beers with four planned. One on tap now is a Pilsner (better than the ones mass-produced here, but still...); the other is an amber ale that is WONDERFUL! Has a smoky aftertaste, much like a Scotch ale. Not an IPA, but (if they can get the proper hops), the owners have promised to try to make some.

I am happy. Found the place last Sunday, and we've already been there three times (and we'll be there again on Sunday).

We talked about getting growlers (so I can bring some to the apartment so I can sip it while looking at the Kampala skyline from our aerie). They said they had plans for that, but were having trouble getting them. I said that I am going to bring one back with me from the States in October. They said, "Good!"

So all is well (better) here in Uganda.

Oh, Yasigi is the goddess of beer in Mali!


Promise: And, finally, a promise to be more diligent in posting to this blog. Though (and Sarah and Chris and Lauren likely understand), I am working hard, and the challenges here are much more profound, at every level, than I had anticipated. So, be patient, but feel free to goad (a la Jonathan Kealing).

And, again, cheers...time to head to the wedding and, perhaps, that good amber ale after the festivities.

P.S.: Oh, had to get new tires for the Rav4. The brand is called Achilles. Hmmm, not very comforting, from my point of view, if you think "heel."

P.P.S.: I will post pictures of wedding, likely tomorrow. Gotta run to another wedding.